A barefoot climb of Mt. St. Helens
Barefoot hiking has never caused the kind of controversy and acrimony that barefoot running has. Perhaps it’s because hiking doesn’t come so overloaded with notions about proper form and “performance.” People generally go hiking for recreation and sightseeing — any exercise or positive health effects hikers get are side benefits. Most runners participate in races of some kind, but hiking is less competitive — unless you get two diehard “peak baggers” on the same trail. (Count me out, man, I’d rather stop and smell the flowers.)
So barefoot hiking should be a lot like barefoot trail running — not so much about performance as about the experience. I thought I’d give it a try when my friend Ron Krull invited me to climb Mt. St. Helens late in the summer. The photos are by him unless otherwise noted. And a special note: FWIW here barefoot means actually barefoot. There is nothing wrong with minimal shoes — or any shoes you want — but, dude, it’s not the same thing.
I’ve done Mt. St. Helens before, so I knew what I was getting into. …more
Thanksgiving toast (after two football games and four glasses of wine)
You know what, dog? You are far more than an opportunistic commensalist to me.
You are ALL RIGHT, you know what I mean? You’re like, the ONLY holiday guest who gets JUST HOW FUNNY that story about the stupid squirrel is.
I promise to give you the whole turkey pan and take you camping again, as soon as we wake up from this trypto.. trypto.. STUFF.
(back with something of substance after the holiday)
Zen and the art of trail maintenance
The tools of trail work: the Pulaski, a Janus-headed half-axe, half-adze; the adze hoe (ain’t gardening); the pick mattock, which will pick your eye out if you lose your footing. Hard metal tools, forged in fire and originally designed for wildfire-fighting.
The tools are hard, but the work is soft. You can’t just hack a trail up the side of a mountain. According to to the Student Conservation Association’s trail manual, Lightly on the Land, early trails in the Northeast U.S. used to be built this way–hacked hurriedly straight up to the summit. This was because in the Eastern U.S., most of the trails being built were recreational, e.g. from a Catskill inn up to a viewpoint, and because people had to worry more about staying within property lines.
But now the “horizontal vision”–winding, low-grade trails that obey the contours of the land–of the Western U.S., where trails were originally more logging- or mining-related, is the favored method of trail building.